Life Extension Magazine January 2011
As We See It
Glucose: The Silent Killer
By William Faloon
The deadly effects of even slightly elevated glucose are fatally misunderstood.
One reason for this calamity is physicians who continue to rely on obsolete blood glucose ranges. These doctors fail to recognize that any excess glucose creates lethal metabolic pathologies that are underlying factors behind multiple age-related diseases.
People today thus suffer and die from diabetic-like complications without knowing their blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high!
Life Extension® long ago argued that most aging people have elevated blood glucose. Our controversial position has been vindicated as mainstream medicine consistently lowers the upper-level threshold of acceptable (safe) fasting blood glucose.
As new evidence accumulates, it has become abundantly clear that maturing individuals need to take aggressive actions to ensure their fasting and after-meal glucose levels are kept in safe ranges.
Glucose Is Like Gasoline
Our body’s primary source of energy is glucose. All of our cells use it, and when there is not enough glucose available, our body shuts down in a similar way that a car engine stops when the gasoline tank is empty.
When glucose is properly utilized, our cells produce energy efficiently. As cellular sensitivity to insulin diminishes, excess glucose accumulates in our bloodstream. Like spilled gasoline, excess blood glucose creates a highly combustible environment from which oxidative and inflammatory fires chronically erupt.
Excess glucose not used for energy production converts to triglycerides that are either stored as unwanted body fat or accumulate in the blood where they contribute to the formation of atherosclerotic plaque.1-6
If you were filling your automobile with gasoline and the tank reached full, you would not keep pumping in more gas. Yet most people keep fueling their bodies with excess energy (glucose) with little regard to the deadly consequences.
As an aging human, you face a daily onslaught of excess glucose that poses a greater risk to your safety than overflowing gasoline. Surplus glucose relentlessly reacts with your body’s proteins, causing damaging glycation reactions while fueling the fires of chronic inflammation and inciting the production of destructive free radicals.7-20
The Evolving Definition of Type 2 Diabetes
Medical dictionaries define diabetes as a condition whereby the body is not able to regulate blood glucose levels, resulting in too much glucose being present in the blood. The debate is over what level of blood glucose is considered “too high.”
Nearly four decades ago, we emphatically stated that fasting blood glucose should be below 100 (mg/dL). Yet from 1979 to 1997, the medical establishment dictated that one of the criteria for a diagnosis of diabetes was fasting glucose readings of 140 mg/dL or higher on two separate occasions.
In 1997, the medical establishment revised the fasting glucose threshold for a diagnosis of diabetes to 126 mg/dL. In addition, the medical establishment (American Diabetes Association), characterized the so-called impaired fasting glucose threshold level at 110 mg/dL, which was subsequently lowered in 2003 to what Life Extension originally stated, i.e. that no one should have fasting glucose 100 mg/dL or higher.
The problem is that we now know that the optimal fasting glucose ranges are 70-85 mg/dL based upon the totality of the scientific evidence.33
Those with glucose above 85 mg/dL are at increased risk of heart attack.34 This was shown in a study of nearly 2,000 men where fasting blood glucose levels were measured over a 22-year period. The startling results showed that men with fasting glucose over 85 (mg/dL) had a 40% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
The researchers who conducted this study stated “fasting blood glucose values in the upper normal range appears to be an important independent predictor of cardiovascular death in nondiabetic apparently healthy middle-aged men.”34
So pull out your latest blood test result and see where you stand. At a minimum, you want to see your fasting glucose below 86 mg/dL.
Why Any “Excess” Glucose is Dangerous
Sugar damages cells via multiple mechanisms and is a causative factor in common diseases of aging.35-52
In a group of humans who reduced their food intake to calorie restriction levels, fasting glucose declined to an average of 74 mg/dL.23 This corresponds to animal studies in which caloric restriction induced significant reductions in blood glucose in conjunction with extension of life span.53-55
It is well established that cutting calorie intake reduces one’s risk of age-related diseases and slows markers of aging.56-62 One reason for this may be the reduction in blood glucose (and insulin) levels that occurs in response to ingesting fewer calories.
In a study of 33,230 men, high glucose was independently associated with a 38% increase in deaths from digestive tract cancers.63 Other studies show that diabetics have even greater increased cancer risks.64-70
Diabetics suffer such horrific incidences of vascular disorders that some experts believe that coronary artery occlusion and diabetes should be classified as the same disease. In other words, if you are diabetic, you are almost certainly going to suffer coronary atherosclerosis.
In a recent study involving 1,800 people, coronary disease rates were the same over a 10-year period in pre-diabetics compared to those with full-blown diabetes. The authors of the study commented that impaired fasting glucose significantly increased risk in comparison with the normal glucose group and concluded:
“Early control of blood glucose is essential to prevention and control of coronary heart disease.”71
As people age, their fasting glucose levels usually increase as their health declines.
Standard laboratory reference ranges allow an upper-limit of fasting glucose of 99 mg/dL. Yet the most effective anti-aging therapy—caloric restriction—lowers fasting glucose levels to the 70-85 mg/dL range.
Recent studies indicate that keeping fasting glucose levels in the range of 70-85 mg/dL and not allowing after-meal glucose levels to spike higher than 40 mg/dL over your fasting value, favorably influences our longevity genes.72
The take-home lesson is that one can slash their risks of age-related diseases and possibly slow their rate of aging by tightly controlling blood glucose levels.
Shield Your Body From Excess Glucose
An enormous volume of published data shows that by taking the proper compounds before meals, the surge of glucose into the bloodstream and the subsequent insulin spike can be mitigated.74-84
Nutrients that neutralize carbo-hydrate-degrading enzymes (like white kidney bean and brown seaweed extracts) are helpful.77,85 The addition of special fibers (like propolmannan) can slow the rate of carbohydrate absorption from the small intestine, thus further blunting the after-meal (postprandial) flow of glucose into the blood.86-89
Life Extension introduced a multi-ingredient powdered formula in 2010 that was designed to be taken before heavy meals to control the rate of fat and carbohydrate absorption.
I cannot emphasize the critical importance for those with glucose levels above 85 mg/dL to take these kinds of compounds before meals that help shield one’s bloodstream against dangerous glucose-insulin spikes.
Why Most Aging People Should Take Metformin
Metformin is a drug approved to treat type 2 diabetes. It is also very effective for those at high risk of developing diabetes due to elevated blood sugar readings. The Diabetes Prevention Program showed that metformin can reduce the risk of developing diabetes in high risk patients by a whopping 31%, with the greatest benefit for those significantly overweight.90
Metformin improves insulin sensitivity,91-93 and inhibits the release of glycogen (the storage form for glucose) from the liver,94-98 thus lowering fasting glucose blood levels.
Life Extension funded research showing that metformin may have calorie restriction mimetic properties in laboratory mice. The drug’s unique ability to reduce glucose-insulin blood levels and its super low-cost make it something you’ll want to ask your doctor about.
Are Most of Us Pre-diabetic?
In reviewing thousands of blood test results and published scientific studies, I have come to the conclusion that more than 75% of people over the age of 40-50 are suffering from some degree of prediabetic-related disorder inflicted by elevated blood sugar.
These problems may silently smolder as kidney impairment,99,100 aberrant cell proliferation,101-109 and endothelial dysfunction110-117—or explode outwardly as a sudden-death heart attack.118-122 Young healthy people can usually maintain optimal glucose ranges, whereas glucose levels creep up as we age. The data showing that modestly elevated “normal” glucose increases disease risk cannot be ignored.119,123-127
Normal aging predisposes most of us to metabolic complications as a result of impaired glucose metabolism. If we fail to recognize this fact, we are doomed to suffer a plethora of degenerative conditions that were largely preventable.
The good news is that there are nutrients, hormones, and drugs that healthy people can take to achieve optimal glucose readings, or at least reduce blood sugar levels to safer ranges. The section at the end of this article provides a concise description of simple steps you can take to slash your glucose levels.
Don’t Be a Victim of Physician Ignorance
We at Life Extension hear from members who say their doctor is not concerned that their fasting glucose level is a little over 100 mg/dL. The reason physicians don’t panic about this kind of high reading is that they are so used to seeing it in older individuals.
As you have just learned, however, glucose readings over 85 mg/dL place aging humans at sharply elevated risks for cardiovascular disease. You don’t have to become a victim of physician apathy and ignorance. There are a myriad of steps you can take to drive down your glucose to safer ranges. The section beginning on the next page provides a menu of options to select from to gain glycemic control over your body.
As more Americans wake up to the inadequacies of mainstream medicine, they are joining the Life Extension Foundation. One benefit of membership is being able to order your own blood tests at ultra-low prices. For instance, we offer a comprehensive blood chemistry test that measures glucose, triglycerides, LDL, HDL, total cholesterol, liver-kidney function, blood cell counts and more for only $35. You can order this test by calling 1-800-208-3444 (24 hours a day) and have your blood drawn in your area at your convenience.